If you’re not used to hearing the violin outside the context of classical or bluegrass music, Trip to the Sun might be a pleasant change of pace for you.
Violin virtuoso Silverman, a onetime member of the Turtle Island String Quarter, works his magic with (predictably) various violins—electric and MIDI-enhanced, and good old acoustic—as well as viola and keyboards. On most of Trip to the Sun, he’s working solo or with minimal accompaniment, but on two of the album’s strongest works, Silverman teams with composer/performer Terry Riley. Of these, “Moonshine in the Sun with Terry Riley” is the most enjoyable; it’s an upbeat piece that’s pleasantly pastoral, with a few momentary nods to post-rock. Silverman’s playing helps keep the piece edgy and unpredictable, avoiding syrupy new age sentimentality. “Darshan with Terry Riley” is less structured, with Riley taking a less active role until the final minute, when he offers a muted melody.
Some of Silverman’s other choices are a bit more dubious. A re-interpretation of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” is a little too faithful and restrained, and seems like a bid for baby boomer attention and radio airplay. Likewise, “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” can’t escape Jimi Hendrix’s shadow—but then, who could? By contrast, Silverman’s arrangement of Bach’s “Largo from Sonata 3 in C for Unaccompanied Violin” is austere and striking, and Gershwin’s “Prelude 2” goes down easily.
My gripe with Silverman is the same gripe I have with a lot of artists: the intensity and fervor of his live persona is mostly missing from this recording. Silverman looks like a rock star, and I guess I wish he’d play like one too.